Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the Justice Department will soon make an announcement about the possible banning of bump stocks, a device that makes semi-automatic weapons fire hundreds of rounds per minute.
“Our top people have believed for some time that we can, through the regulatory process, not allow the bump stock to convert a weapon from semi-automatic to fully automatic,” Mr. Sessions said during the National Association of Attorneys General’s annual winter meeting in D.C. “We have been working on that for some time and will have an announcement on that soon.”
Mr. Sessions also appeared to express doubt if a bump stock ban will be effectively implemented in the United States.
“I don’t know what will happen,” he said. “Just sharing that some experts believe this has to be done legislatively if folks want to do it.”
Last week, President Trump signed a memorandum recommending that Mr. Sessions propose regulations that would declare bump stocks illegal.
Bump stocks essentially turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun, which are outlawed in the United States.
A semi-automatic weapon requires a shooter to squeeze the trigger each time to fire a single shot. But when a bump stock is attached to the weapon, the gun’s recoil is used to “bump” the trigger back to the shooter’s finger, making the gun fire at a much faster rate.
Stephen Paddock, the gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others at a Las Vegas country music festival, had at least 12 rifles with bump stocks, according to law enforcement officials.
Mr. Trump ordered the banning of bump stocks six days after a gunman killed 17 people, including 14 students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, while armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. The shooting has sparked yet another national conversation on the issue of gun control.
Justice Department attorneys are currently reviewing case law involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Mr. Sessions said. He added that he believed regulation will be an effective step to banning bump stocks.
Proposed regulations would take some time to be implemented. It must first be published in the federal register and subject to public comment before being adopted.
Mr. Sessions’ speech was his first public comment on the bump stock issue since Mr. Trump signed the memorandum.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is putting together the case against accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, was among those in attendance for Mr. Sessions’ speech, which directly addressed her.
“My thoughts are with you,” he said. “I know how hard you’ve been working on that.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, spoke after Mr. Sessions. He said Congress has provided guidance to the Justice Department, but defining bump stocks is a challenge to adopting effective regulations.
A belt loop on blue jeans or work pants can achieve the same effect as a bump stock, creating difficulty in determining how to proceed with an effective ban.
“The definition of a bump stock is critically important,” Mr. Goodlatte said. “We want [regulation] to be effective, but these devices change in their character and how they function.”